Lost and Found

Ah, Lovers… what once was lost is now found… and I’m not talking about my fourth water bottle since leaving the US, my 90# Olympic snatch or my ability to control myself around a bottle of Kentucky Bourbon.  Instead what I’ve stumbled upon serves all of us… you see my Lovers, I was ready to hang it up, pack it in, starting my next Love Letter with “Its not you, its me…” – the disappearance of not one, but two lengthy posts detailing the Italian Adventure had me distraught, frustrated, defeated-  but a recent reset of some laptop setting and voila! they reappeared – coupled with some unexpected encouraging words, and turns out it really was me…. but just temporary insanity.  So without further adieu, I present you with the continuation of my traipse across my family homeland.

Sunday, September 23rd
Ciao I Mei amanti. I’m sitting outside the train station in Lamezia Terme, Italy, in the Calabria region, disgustingly early for my train that is already running 35 minutes behind. With my newfound time, I have posted up at a cafe across the street from the tiny station and ordered a beer while I await my chariot to Sicily, a detour I had not pondered until DL told me I had to go. Why not, though… its only a 6 hour train ride away – rolls eyes. Despite my current state, I’m excited to return to a bigger city, as small town Italy is well…. challenging.

I recently received a text from a good friend and fellow traveler that simply read “Why are blog posts do hard to write?” I had to laugh, because I’ve had that thought so may times myself, and I’m pretty sure that as I sat in my hotel room, crippled with fever and lethargy from going non-stop for the past three weeks I had pondered the same thought, staring blankly at my laptop and choosing to Google “What is Fortnight” instead of regaling the tales of the last two weeks. When I was on my US stint, my friend, confidant and hairdresser of nearly 20 years admitted she loved reading about my adventures, but was curious as to why the writing had tapered off, and the answer is that there are a myriad of reasons that I don’t compose my Love Letters, everything from work to adventures, to a sheer lack of desire to put the words down to paper(computer). Those of us who do blog our adventures encourage each other to keep it up, while excusing each other from the responsibility of documenting every moment in a fashion that forced and not enjoyable for anyone, including the writer.
That said, I “owe” you two weeks of the Italian Adventure, my solo endeavor into the country of my ancestry, and its not a task I’m lamenting, rather one I have been sad to not devote the time to, so, now that it seems I have a free two hours, let’s dive into the week of Venzia and Trieste.
I believe when we left off I was exhausted and frustrated from the debacle that was the death of my electronics from a faulty water bottle and an admittedly not so smart decision about its proximity to the tech that allows this life to be possible. Mostly recovered from the emotional stress that was the replacement of these items, I woke up Saturday and engaged in my usual ramble about the town, grabbing lunch along one of the main canals across from a lovely journalism student who had just graduated university and was about to start her first gig in Rome after this trip. As I wrapped up lunch, I got a text from a Birmingham friend who was in town with his wife, so I began the absurdly long trek from where I was to where they were. Google maps once again was less than forthcoming with the correct path and time estimate. That aside, the walk through the narrow allies and over the canals of Venice made it easy to not get frustrated, even when I almost got on a ferry going the wrong way. note, learn more Italian.
I make it to their SWANKITY SWANK hotel, and we wander to a local bar where the Italian version of happy hour is supposed to be amazing, find it wanting and make our way back to the luxury that is their hotel bar where we sip martinis and catch up on the last 18 months. They have a company dinner, so I started to wind my way back to my side of town, quickly realizing that the martinis are not helping my sense of direction. I talk myself onto a gondola that gets me closer, but once dropped off, my phone decides to call it quits on the day, overworked from all the twists and turns that Venice provides. It’s getting dark, but I compose myself as best I can… after all, this isn’t a Peruvian jungle, and I found my way outta that jam. I know if I can find my way to the train station, I can get back to the basement studio I’m calling home for the weekend. After 20 minutes, I throw in the independent woman towel, approaching a dashing young man to play the {lost} damsel in distress. Chivalry is not dead in Venice, and the super sweet Italian architect holds out his arm and leads me back to the canal side by the train stations where we take off our shoes, dangle our feet in the water and talk into the night. I found it a rather enjoyable evening, despite the temporary state of displacement, but as I recently recounted this story to my good friend Aaron, who knows me well, he posed a good point: “I wonder how he tells that story….” Thanks Aaron. I’ll still take my version

 

The next morning I am over the crowded, touristic nature of Venice, so I hop the first train into the land side of Venzia and try to decide if I’m hitting Verona before heading to Trieste, the home of grandmother. Seeing that I would have to come back to this exact station in order to get to Trieste, I decide to scrap Verona and get the bus to Trieste instead. My pad for the next few days is only a 15 minute walk, but Northern Italy is still brutally hot despite the time of year – considers I should have checked this out before coming- and my gear gets heavy after about 10 minutes of walking, which is almost perfect timing though, because that’s about the time that the walk opens up the Mediterranean on my left and the gold etched architecture of Trieste on my right. I’m too busy staring in awe at the buildings to pay attention to the sweat dripping or the weight of the pack on my back, and before I know it, I’m at my apartment, and as an added bonus, I’m able to check in early.

I’ve been staying budget conscious for the majority of this trip so far, and in places like Venice that means dank, musty, studio apartments with pull out couches, in Modena it was a hotel far outside the center with no AC, tiny showers with very little hot water (hey, it is Europe) but I’m beyond pleased when I open the door to a fully renovated apartment that’s fresh, bright, and has working AC, which I spend a good 45 minutes just enjoying. After sufficiently cooling, I head to the pier for a dockside dinner, catch up with 4 friend in 3 countries, hit Eataly for some groceries and then take it in for the evening.
I spend the next few days exploring Trieste by morning and grinding by night. The buildings in this seaside town are grandiose and ornate, sparkling in the sun as much as the sea. A morning scooter ride with a local kite surfer reveals even more hidden gems, and I’m quickly falling in love with the city by the sea that my grandmother spent her childhood in. One morning after a seaside run, I wander up the hill to find the church she was baptized in, stumbling across a war memorial and castle before reaching her neighborhood, and if you recall from Sintra in 4 hours (or less) I do so love to play in a castle. My inner child satiated, I continue to what I can only surmise is my grandmother’s neighborhood, as back then I don’t imagine they wandered too far from home. I found her childhood church, grabbing a coffee and sitting in the piazza that lay in the shadow of the steeple. Afterwards I made my way around the streets, imagining her upbringing in this place.
That evening, between meetings and in the 10 minute breaks as prescribed by my Pomodoro timer, I’m taking the picture from my grandparent’s wedding and comparing it to pictures of Trieste churches, trying to find the exact one where they said their vows, even enlisting the help of a friend who photographs churches and has been to Trieste. A clutch message from my dad comes through on my last night in Trieste, and he’s found the name of the church, so I get up earlier that my hotel checkout, and grab a cab up the hill.
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Riding up to the church, a knot started to form in my stomach… maybe knot isn’t the right word, as it may imply dread… this was more of an excitement, and anxiety, an unknown I knew I was about to face. First, I have always be uneasy as religion as tourism… as my Earhart travel mates can tell you, I would rarely go into temples, churches, mosques, etc… its a personal feeling, and I’m just not comfortable with it. But this was different. So though I initially paused at the front door, I pushed through my fears, anxiety, and perceived respect level and entered the church.
It was dead quiet, but as soon as I entered, the light from the large windows seemed to envelope me. The butterflies in my stomach ceased, the jitters in my nerves calmed, and my blood calmed to a dull roar that echoed in my ears amidst the silence. I absentmindedly dipped my fingers in the marble tub of holy water to the right, hit a knee and signed the cross before taking the nearest seat in the back pew to my left. I sat there for a long time… if I had to guess, about 20 minutes or so, but in the aura of the moment, it could have been 5 or 60. I stared at the alter, pondering the fact that an event had taken place there over 60 years ago that determined my mere existence in this moment. Wrapping my head around that was a deeply spiritual moment, and I knew once I walked out of that church, I would have a different outlook on several things, including but not limited to the familial relationships I had neglected over the years. I rose from the pew and made my way to the front to light a candle for my grandmother before leaving.
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I went from that moment into a state of vagrancy, checking out of my hotel at 11am Thursday morning and not having another home until Friday evening when I would arrive in the Amalfi coast, and no place for my bags until my 11pm overnight bus. I made the most of the day between cafes and coffee shops, and even managed to catch a Trieste sunset from the pier while catching up with Meilz about life post RY, solo travel and the power of introspection.
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Spending as much time as I did in Trieste meant that I missed out on Verona and Milan, but for me it was what I needed at this point of the trip, this part of my journey, and this time in my life. My existence as a human, spawned from so much history in that town, where it is told that my grandfather returned to win over the woman who wanted nothing to do with him, where he persisted, and they were married, the city by the sea will always hold a piece of my heart, and that church in particularly will always be where I remember my soul shifting, my perspective changing, and new lights being considered. And that’s all beside the amazing food, stunning architecture, friendly people, and easy lifestyle. I don’t know exactly how long this lifestyle of mine will continue, but I’d like to return to Trieste at some point and spend some more time exploring my roots.
Arevadderchi Lovers.
Specifically yours,
SR
Pictorial Evidence of the beauty of Trieste

You Can Never Go “Home” Again

Hello my Lovers of Random. I hope at this point I have satiated your needs for updates on the adventure that was Remote Year Earhart. Even though I’ve closed the chapter of that particular adventure, I am in no way done. There will be sequels, both in the form of adventures with new ‘Krews’ as well as reunions with Earhart past. As I write this post, I’m 10,000ft in the air on my way to Denver to see Marky, my first Earhart neck to hug since my tearful goodbye with the ever so beautiful Mel at the Cancun Airport. But before I land and begin the second chapter of my nomad life, let’s touch base about life in the US post RY.

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photo cred Ryan Nelson

I have to tell you that I truly didn’t know what to expect upon landing on native soil after a year abroad. I landed in Houston with time to make an earlier flight to Memphis and hopped terminals to see if I could secure a seat. With the help of the friendliest United gate agent I ever met, I made it onto the flight, only to be delayed, deplaned for maintenance, and reboarded 10 minutes after my original flight took off. I was rewarded with a seat in 1a, which I was grateful for as I found myself succumb to the emotions that had been hiding the past few weeks. Silent tears slid down my cheeks nearly the entire flight, and I’m thankful for the flight attendant, who handed me tissues and a Jack on the rocks with no questions asked.

I landed at Memphis and after a snafu with my car rental caught a 45 minute Uber to my parent’s house in BFE Tennessee. I hadn’t clued them in to my early arrival, so when I rang the doorbell, there was a round of surprise and hugs, and an off comment or two about my red and puffy eyes. My unsuspecting nephew rounded the corner straight from the shower and his face lit up at the sight of his Aunt Krystal. Before I knew it, he was on me, and I wrapped him up in a bear hug and spun him around a few times. If that doesn’t cure the blues, idk what does.

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I spent a couple of days rummaging through the boxes left behind in my parent’s attic. It was almost reminiscent of being a kid and playing in my attic with my grandmother’s old clothes. Resurrecting #formerlifePino was surreal – although I did enjoy the full breadth of my shoe collection.

A couple of days in I was boarding a plane to Atlanta for Xerocon and an in person meeting with the HPC crew. The week was a whirlwind of co workers, new colleagues, fantastic speakers, and, as any good conference has, too much whiskey. Xerocon didn’t take enough out of me to not meet up with some ATL Citizens at the end of the week though, including the lovely Jess, my definite partner in crime had I been a Meraki. We had dinner, drinks, and talked about how the world didn’t’ get us as we watched the ATL night ride.

The next morning I was headed back to the fam for a chill week in good ol’ Oakland, TN. The week before I had dropped in on Crossfit Penance, a box not far from the ‘rents, so I got back into the routine of throwing weight around between hours of settling into my new role of Head of Client Experience at HPC. All in all, a welcome uneventful week.

Friday had me taking off for Birmingham with a quick stop in T-Town for a catch up and hair rescue with my stylist of 17 years. As soon as she touched my hair, he faced revealed everything I already knew… it was time to say goodbye to the golden locks, the lion’s mane mop of curls I had been torturing all year. Within the hour she had me fixed up, a brunette beauty again with layers and depth, free of split ends. The woman is a hair goddess and I am lucky to have her.

Birmingham kicked off with a mini class reunion of a few of us that crewed the night shift at UAB’s accounting program. We caught up over pork loin and beer before I hightailed it to catch up with the most consistent friend I’d had all year. She offered me refuge on night one, and we drank local craft brews while catching up on all the gossip.

The next morning was Saturday, which in my mind, means a couple things in BHM. 1) Pepper Place Market, with a guaranteed stop to see the Salsa Guy (who remembered me after a year abroad) and 2) Brunch at El Barrio, complete with a Palmoa for Two (but really just for me) and the Cuban Madam. After getting my fix of both of the above with Aaron and a guest appearance from the #PIC, I headed to the ‘burbs t meet up with some old bar patrons and friends at a memorial to honor our fallen comrades (oh, you thought I meant old as in time… no.. they’re old as in age. JK guys, love you all). After a lot of hugs and too many stories, I headed back downtown to join the “family” for dinner at my FAVORITE spot, Highland’s Bar and Grill. As per usual, I was over served, over fed and welcomed back like I’d never been gone.

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Sundays in Birmingham are for brunch at Dyron’s, so I rustled up the other half of the ACs and we joined Sloan to chat over Titos and grapefruits (fresh pressed, of course) while munching on beignets, crab claws, and chicken and biscuits. I left brunch in hope of catching a Baron’s game, but an Alabama summer thunderstorm had other ideas, so beers at Good People with Sarah, the #PIC, Oliver and his fam was the play. Once the rain settled, the boys took off on their one wheels and Sarah and I headed to Jinsei for the best sushi in town. Once again, there was no love lost as I was welcomed back by Abe, still managing the place, and Patrick, still slinging the best Hot Kiss this side of the Prime Meridian.

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A slammed packed week of catching up with friends was promptly derailed once I saw my Gracie baby and realized she was sick. A trip to the vet confirmed she had leukemia and was struggling to breathe. Sarah and I made the decision to put he down, and I cried… for days. Despite my guilt and grief, I was able to muster the energy to make a few engagements, have a bowl of pasta at Gianmarco with Jake still nailing my wine tastes, compete in a competition at Wheelhouse and podium, hit the community pool with my Ella bug, and grab a Spicy Hawaiian from Slice with the ACs and the Ex and his new Boo.

Exhausted and spent, I hit the road back to the fam to spend a few more days with them before jetting off again. Between dinner at home with the ‘rents and dinner dates with my nephew, I met up with another Citizen and SS Shitshow crew member for some pizza and peanut butter pie with a mutual friend of ours. Is anyone catching a theme here yet? Food. It’s all about the food.

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My bags are once again packed, and I’m toting 60lbs of my life off to Denver before hitting the world again. First up Europe, then South Africa for an extended stay. While it was good to see faces, hug necks, and eat and drink my way through my former life, it didn’t quite fit anymore. There was an uncomfortableness to the comfortability of it, and I found myself anxious to get on the road again. I got a hitch in my stomach every time someone asked how it was to be “home”, and I quickly realized that for me, Birmingham would never be “home” again. As amazing as it is, and although it holds some of my favorite souls, I have outgrown it, at least for now. So, the only reality I see is to keep going, onto the next home, on and on until I find that one place that captures my eye, heart and attention for the long term. Here goes nothing,

 

Stay Tuned Lovers.

Randomly Yours,

SR